Yassir Qadhi in a Porsche

Readers, you are not deceived. That is indeed none other than Al Maghrib icon Yasssir Qadhi behind the wheel of a Porsche Boxster sportscar with the top down. And no, I did not hire some private detective to snap this compromising photo exposing the salafi-vangelist leading a double-life. Qadhi himself made it his LinkedIn profile picture.

I’m not sure what kind of message Qadhi is trying to send: That all the Zakah donations to Al Maghrib have been put to good use??? My best guess is that he is trying to impress one of Al Maghrib’s key target audience: teenagers, particularly teen boys.

What I do know is that piety and money rarely make for a happy mix, and that cocktail should always be treated with suspicion. I remember the Al Rayyan craze that shook Egypt when I was growing up. At the heart of the scam was a pious businessman with a long beard, surrounded by people including former Al Azhar teachers, dozens of clerics. He pitched Al Rayyan as a “Money Employment” company, but really it was an investment fund that became all the rage. In addition to being a halal “Islamic investment,” the promised return rates were much higher than any bank could offer. The “company” preyed on two factors: ordinary people’s pious desire to avoid interest-based financial dealings – and their desire for profitability.

Appropriately for Egypt, the whole venture was (pardon the pun) a pyramid scheme. By the time the scam collapsed, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had invested their hard-earned life savings. Many were expatriates working in the Gulf who believed they would make a quick buck abroad before returning home to retire comfortably. When the pyramid collapsed, they had to delay retirement by many years. Friends of my family were caught up in the scam, with devastating consequences.

Now I’m not saying Yasser Qadhi is operating his own version of an Al Rayyan Ponzi scheme, but some scam seems to be going on. For years he has been touring, lecturing, and building an internet persona as a preacher and scholar. He’s been poisoning young Muslims for years (I am particularly disgusted by the Al Maghrib social media ads preying on teens by warning about djinns and satan out to get them). Some people call Qadhi a closeted Wahabi, though no honest salafi would be caught showing off in a Porsche.

Here in America we have many cautionary tales of televangelists enjoying lavish lifestyles on the backs of their naïve congregants. It’s not clear whether Qadhi is just posing as a “baller” or actually living the high-life off duped donors. Either way, the photo is a warning. We can’t let our piety be taken advantage of by charlatans. They’re not out there for us or for Allah. They’re out for themselves.